Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Improve your teamwork with a collaboration platform – my checklist for a tool/service selection

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Nicole Enders
My name is Nicole Enders and I am an expert for Modern Workplace and Collaboration at CONET Solutions GmbH in Hennef, Germany. My main focus is consulting and the development of solutions with Office 365 and SharePoint. I combine since more than 12 years proven standard products of this product suite and adapt them with the help of various development tools. This creates customized work environments for Social Intranet, Modern Workplace and Collaboration.

Did you read my previous article about the basic questions you should ask when you plan to launch a collaboration platform? Now, we should take a closer look at the services offered by Microsoft in Office 365. We will check the offered services from a technical point of view and then we will change our perspective and consider the main use cases for each service.

Use cases

If we evaluate the services offered in Office 365 from a business perspective, you will see that several tools can be considered for certain requirements. In these cases, you should evaluate which tool you and your colleagues would prefer. My personal recommendation can be found in the order of the tools listed. I would personally choose the first tool for a collaboration platform.

Use case Which tool should you use?
Support Teamwork Teams
Work together on documents SharePoint
Teams (includes SharePoint supplemented by a chat functionality)
Exchange information ad hoc Teams (private chats)
Skype for Business (deprecated but still in use in many companies)
Yammer (private chats)
Spread company-wide information SharePoint
Yammer (public groups or corporate channel)
Teams (public or org-wide teams)
Build a corporate network or external networks Yammer
Manage tasks Planner / To-Do
Support business processes Dynamics 365
Flow and PowerApps (AI Builder)
Knowledge Management Stream (with recordings)
Teams (wiki feature)
SharePoint Online

I would start with Microsoft Teams to support teamwork in many different variations. SharePoint would be used for document management and could be used as a central information share (e. g. an intranet) while Yammer could connect the people in open communities.

Main purpose of the Office 365 services

Each tool has a dedicated purpose and related strengths and weaknesses. I share a list of the main services in Office 365 which you may extend with future services or some services I don’t consider at the moment.

Tool How does this tool support collaboration?
Exchange Online e-mail communication
shared inbox and group calendar
Skype for Business instant messaging
video conferencing / meetings
Teams instant messaging
video conferencing / meetings
workspaces for teamwork
integration of additional tools into a workspace
Yammer corporate network and open communities
external networks
OneDrive for Business manage and share personal documents
offline functionality for documents
SharePoint document management
workspaces for teamwork
social intranet
Stream knowledge management (recordings, videos)
OneNote notes and documentation
knowledge management
Planner manage tasks
project management light
To-Do manage personal tasks
Project project management
resource planning
Sway information management (especially presenting information)
Dynamics 365 support business processes
Power Automate support business processes
integration of external systems/applications
Power Apps (with AI Builder) support business processes with custom forms and mobile applications and forms processing
Security and Compliance Center corporate policies (retention, compliance, governance)
handle GDPR requests
permission management

Create your custom checklist for your collaboration project!
I use the basic questions and the standard checklist for most of my projects and workshops but every company has some different needs and use cases. Use this material as a blueprint and create your own checklist with your use cases and your first tool selection and then follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Define the purpose of your collaboration platform
  • Step 2: Identify the main use cases you want to support
  • Step 3: Check which tools/services fit best for your use cases and choose as few as possible
  • Step 4: Think big, but start small!

Please don’t forget to involve the end users during the whole process and ask for their feedback. The feedback will help you to build a custom collaboration platform for your company. And keep in mind that after the launch of the platform you should implement a champions program to develop your platform and to adjust it to future requirements.

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